Reusable Travel Mugs: Stainless Steel vs Plastic vs Glass

July 03, 2018 Allison Hess

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2 illustrated, reusable, travel coffee mugs stand next to each other

In our fast-paced world, we want our drinks on-the-go wherever we go. But society is quickly realizing the problem that our bottle waste is creating. Disposable water bottles are one of the greatest causes of carbon gas emissions, landfill waste, and ocean pollution. Last year, Americans used 50 billion plastic water bottles, wasting $1 billion worth of plastic.

 

Plus, these disposable plastic water bottles often contain harmful chemicals (like BPA) that leach into drinks and enter into the body. This can create serious health issues, possibly even leading to cancer and disease.

 

That’s why more and more individuals are switching to reusable coffee and travel mugs. This is safer for the environment, your health, and your wallet.

 

The most common materials for “sustainable hydration” include stainless steel, plastic, and glass. What are the pros and cons of each, and which type of reusable tumbler is right for you?

 

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a common material for reusable travel mugs. It’s great for temperature-sensitive liquids, it’s highly durable, and it’s one of the most recyclable materials for drinkware. Overall, stainless steel is the most sustainable and healthy choice.

 

Pros

Temperature: Stainless steel maintains your liquid’s desired temperature for hours. For example, our 30oz stainless steel tumbler can keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 6 hours. Steel also won’t “sweat” or have condensation on the outside, so there’s no need for coasters or insulation. You don’t have to worry about a ring of water in your car or on your desk.

 

Durability: Steel has the longest life cycle of any reusable material. Most stainless steel is made with chromium. When scratched, chromium actually rebuilds itself in the presence of oxygen. Chromium functions like a protective and healing layer, enabling an extensive life cycle for stainless steel bottles.

 

Safe: Steel is one of the safest materials to use, which is why it’s used for so many appliances. You also don’t have to worry about it breaking or damaging in extreme temperatures, which makes it the safest and most versatile reusable bottle.

 

Recyclable: Each component of stainless steel can be separated, recycled, and reused. In fact, it’s one of the only materials that can be 100% salvaged during the recycling process. This gives it a longer recycle lifespan, which ultimately extends its use and reduces waste.

 

Cleanable: Stainless steel is also the easiest material to clean. Plastic tends to harbor more bacteria, while stainless steel is more resistant to harmful gunk.

 

A man's hand holds a stainless steel coffee tumbler outdoors

 

Tip: Your bottle is a great way to show off your personality. You can have a sleek, clean design like HomeBev or you can decorate it with colorful stickers.

 

Cons

Taste: Some stainless steel can cause a metallic taste, especially for the first several uses. Stainless steel also absorbs liquid particles, so it can create lingering tastes in the bottle that transfer to your other liquids. For example, you drank hot chamomile tea that transferred to the steel mug, and now all of your other beverages have the faint taste of chamomile. However, this is usually only common with lower quality steel products.

 

Toxins: Some studies have shown that certain metal water bottles leach BPA or iron, chromium, and nickel. However, high-quality stainless steel is produced to prevent this leeching. For example, our tumbler is constructed with the safest 18/8 stainless steel, so it’s completely BPA and toxin free.

 

Energy-intensive: Stainless steel has a somewhat unsustainable manufacturing process. It releases fossil fuels and greenhouses gasses at a high rate, posing a greater risk to people and ecosystems in local areas.

 

However, it’s actually more sustainable in the long run than plastic bottles because you’re producing and wasting less. It’s estimated that just 500 uses of your stainless steel bottle will beat plastic production in all environmental aspects.

 

Plastic

Plastic reusable bottles are different than plastic bottles. Typical plastic bottles can’t be reused because they aren’t durable enough to be cleaned and rewashed. Here, we’re talking about reusable cups made from plastic, like you’ve seen with CamelBak or Nalgene.

 

Plastic is a popular choice because it comes in so many shapes and sizes, and it’s one of the more affordable options.

 

A plastic, reusable water bottle sits in a backpack pocket of a woman hiking

 

Pros

Durable: Reinforced plastic is a highly durable material. This makes it popular for sporting and other heavy-use activities.

 

Inexpensive: Plastic tends to be the most affordable option. This is why a lot of companies will give out reusable plastic water bottles at events or functions. (If you get a free stainless steel bottle, you know the company spent good money on it!)  

 

Variety: Plastic bottles come in a variety of sizes, colors, and shapes for whatever use you may have. They’re especially common for sporting uses.

 

Cons

Taste: Like stainless steel, plastic bottles can impact flavor and odor by absorbing certain liquid particles. This is especially true for hot liquids.

 

Leaching: Plastic bottles have a bad reputation for BPA leaching. BPA is a chemical that has been linked to cancer and other diseases, and it’s used to create a number of plastics. Most reputable companies will ensure that their bottles are produced without BPA—but the risk is still there. Do your research about the company and their manufacturing process before purchasing a plastic bottle.  

 

Glass

Glass reusable bottles are not a common option because of their fragility, but they’re an environmental and healthy choice for at-home use.

 

Pros

Taste: Glass tends to maintain the purest flavor, which is why most liquors and spirits come in glass bottles.

 

Usable: Glass is dishwasher safe and won’t degrade over time. It works well for hot or cold beverages, and it won’t absorb odor or taste.

 

A glass water bottle with condensation drops on the outside sits in front of a white surface

 

Cons

Fragility: Glass is fragile and breaks easily. Because of this, a lot of places restrict the use of glass bottles. You likely can’t bring your glass water bottle into a gym, athletic facility, pool, or even on park hiking trails.  

 

Production: Although glass is a more sustainable production process, it emits similar carbon emissions as a PET plastic bottle. Recycling uses 50% of the energy used to create a new glass bottle, which is a significantly high expenditure. However, despite its energy usage, glass is made from naturally abundant materials like sand, limestone, and soda ash.

 

Recycling: Although glass is 80% recyclable, most Americans don’t recycle glass at the rate that they should. In fact, the recycling rate for glass is only 33% in the U.S. Plus, glass takes 4,000 years to decompose, meaning that it can sit in landfills for centuries.

 

Which is right?

You’ll want to choose the reusable mug that works best with your needs. If you are active and sporty, you’ll want a more durable cup like stainless steel or plastic. If you’re looking to maintain the flavor of drinks within your own home, glass might be a good solution.

 

We typically recommend stainless steel as the go-to option. It’s the most durable and usable of the materials without significant disadvantages. It’s the most sustainable option long-term, and it’s the safest for your family and home.

 

Conclusion

You drink water and other liquids every day. You don’t want to fill your body with harmful toxins and bacteria simply from the bottles you use.

 

That’s why HomeRev created our line of drink products, HomeBev. These products are made with our users in mind. Made from BPA-free materials, these tumblers have a stainless steel base with a plastic top to maintain durability and usability. They’re even crafted and tapered to fit most cup holders.

 

HomeBev believes in high-quality products at low prices.

 

Check out the HomeBev products here to find your own sustainable, healthy stainless steel travel mugs.

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